Lifestyle Changes to Manage Ovarian Cancer
by Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
You may need to make lifestyle changes to help you manage cancer treatment and cope with issues concerning sexuality and reproduction.
Managing Cancer Treatment
Depending on the spread of your disease, you may need simple or extensive surgery, and/or one or a few cycles of radiation or chemotherapy. You may have concerns about your diet, complications and side effects, pain, fatigue, and emotional coping. Ask your doctor to give you information and help you find support and resources that will make this process easier.
In particular, chemotherapy may make it necessary to adapt your diet to maintain your nutrition. If you have particular trouble with nausea and vomiting, you may require nutritional supplementation. Also, if you develop diarrhea, you may also have to limit your diet and reduce your fiber intake to be comfortable. Making an appointment with a nutritionist to discuss some of these issues in advance can be helpful.
Many of the treatments of ovarian cancer can destroy your fertility. Ask your doctor about the effects of your specific treatment plan on fertility. If you wish to have children, talk with your doctor and your family about your options, such as adopting or harvesting and preserving your eggs before treatment. It is unclear whether it is safe to harvest eggs from a woman who has ovarian cancer. It is likely the eggs will be damaged, and the harvesting procedure could be very risky and may cause the tumor to spread to the cervix or vagina.
Managing Sexual Activity
Your sexual function may be temporarily upset by your treatment. You may experience pain or loss of sexual function. You may be fearful or anxious about your first sexual experience after cancer treatment, which may cause you or your partner to avoid intimacy and sexual activity. Your partner may also feel anxious about initiating any activity that might be thought of as pressuring to be intimate or that might cause physical discomfort. You and your partner should discuss concerns with your doctor. Honest communication of feelings, concerns, and preferences is important. With counseling and other medical treatments, you may reduce fears, regain normal sensation, and be able to have pain-free intercourse.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if:
Kasper DL, Harrison TR. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Ovarian cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ . Accessed April 8, 2009.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Igor Puzanov, MD
Last Updated: 09/11/2012